I had an excellent 3 days at the fitness convention, "FILEX" over the weekend. I met up with many friends in the industry and also met new people from all around Australia.
What's really great about FILEX is the information that you learn. Definitely worth the mention is Dr Len Kravitz, an amazing educator who presents the latest research on exercise/nutrition to a number of interested industry professionals. As you probably guessed, I'm one of them!
Unfortunately, I cannot summarise all of the research that he presented to us in a single blog post...but I was inspired to write a short blog post on "the best muscle building workout" for anyone who is after that ideal training stimulus to build maximum muscle.
Guess what - there is none. Who would have thought? A quick google search for "the best muscle building workout" quickly reveals 344,000 pages. Yet the science behind the answer to this often pondered question leaves much be desired.
I really, really wish that I could say 4-6 reps to failure with 3 minutes rest was better or worse than 10-12 reps to failure with 90 seconds rest...but you know what...I can't. Nor can anyone make this claim in a substantiated manner because the science just doesn't draw any solid conclusions!
However, I do have some good news. Whilst I'm not going to go into all the individual studies (that's more what I would do with research articles that I love publishing), there is a common theme with muscle gain:
What's periodisation? Well, in it's simplest definition, periodisation is all about developing a planned progression in order to maximise performance and minimise overtraining and injury. I'll spare you all the technical jargon - it's basically mixing up your workout to keep the body guessing.
An example of this could be going from 4-6 reps with 3 minutes rest to failure for 3 weeks, then to 6-8 reps to failure with 2 minutes rest for 3 weeks, then to 12-15 reps to failure with 90 seconds rest for 3 more weeks. You could also change the tempo of your exercises, the exercise choices, exercise speed, order etc.
There is no "ideal" way to periodise a workout to maximise muscle building for everyone. Everyone is an individual and everyone will respond differently.
However, there was one study which I was particularly impressed with the results from. Over the next 8 weeks, I am going to trial this form of periodisation and see how my results go. Here's the structure that I am going to test out:
3 day split (legs/push/pull)
All sets to failure (I love it!)
Changing exercises every 2 weeks
Weeks 1-2: 4-6 reps, 180 seconds rest, slow/controlled execution (compound exercises primarily)
Weeks 3-4: 6-8 reps, 120 seconds rest, controlled execution (compound exercises primarily)
Weeks 5-6: 8-10 reps, 90 seconds rest, faster execution (compound/isolation mix)
Weeks 7-8: 10-12 reps, 60 seconds rest, even faster execution (compound/isolation mix)
I'll be very interested in seeing how this pans out due to the high degree of variability of this style of training. If I obtain great results, I'll be prescribing it to my clients who are seeking to gain muscle. I'm always the guinea pig :)
At the end of the day, I strongly suggest that you also try different training protocols to see what the best muscle building workout is for YOU.